30 June 2008

Debriefing for Match 13.15: L.A. Galaxy

D.C. United 4 : 1 Los Angeles Galaxy

Six Word Novel Recap

Martinez closes down on the Goldenballs.

Media, Traditional and Otherwise

The Washington Times, John Haydon: "The offensive trio of Luciano Emilio, Marcelo Gallardo and Jaime Moreno - dubbed the "Iron Triangle" - combined for four goals, and the oft-criticized defense kept Beckham and Landon Donovan off the scoreboard as United defeated the Galaxy 4-1 on Sunday in front of 35,979 at RFK Stadium."
The Washington Post, Steve Goff: "They watched Luciano Emilio score two goals, giving him nine during United's six-game unbeaten streak, and observed embattled goalkeeper Zach Wells make several excellent saves in his finest performance of the season. They saw Beckham largely neutralized by United's ever-tightening defense, and in the most emotional moment of the joyous day, they provided a thunderous ovation for veteran midfielder Ben Olsen, who made his 2008 debut in the second half after being sidelined because of a career-threatening ankle injury."
The Washington Times, Drew Hansen: "...on Sunday, with Olsen's injuries improving and with a week of training under his belt, he was back out on the pitch...When Olsen stood up to enter, he received one of the loudest ovations of the day from a crowd of 35,979 (no small feat when Beckham is in attendance). He replaced team captain Jaime Moreno, United's longest tenured player and MLS' all-time leading scorer. The two shared a hug, and then Moreno handed him the captain's armband."
WTOP News, Dave Johnson: "There were goals—five of them, and some beauties—but one of the biggest cheers of the day was reserved for a D.C. United veteran, and a further sign of soccer's standing in this country. There was a rumbling that built into a roar as Ben Olsen rose from the bench and entered the game against the L.A. Galaxy late in the second half.
The LA Times: is too pathetic to shell out for their own beat reporter, and uses an AP Feed. Pathetic.
UnitedMania, Chris Webb: "A 5th minute penalty conversion from Jaime Moreno got the hosts off to a dream start...United gave up the lead just five minutes later when Keystone Cops defending from United's back four gifted Edson Buddle his 10th goal of the season. United seemed to have the situation under control but a botched clearance between numerous United defenders ended up on the grateful foot of Buddle who slipped it past a stunned Zach Wells...United did indeed regain the lead in the 37th minute with Emilio's 9th goal of the season. Gallardo's brilliance in ball control in the middle of the field factored into a ball that eventually found it's way through the box to the left side where substitute Marc Burch, on for the injured Quaranta, lofted a cross to Emilio who headed back across goal past the diving Cronin for a 2-1 lead."
MLSNet, Charles Boehm: "A clash of No. 10s in front of the team benches drew blood and bad tempers in the 41st minute, as Donovan draped himself all over Gallardo's back as the D.C. playmaker held possession. Donovan's pushing and grabbing was met with a backwards elbow from Gallardo, sending his tormentor to the turf with a bloody nose...But United's midfield maestro took his next chance with aplomb, pushing the lead to two goals after smartly following the ball into the box as Emilio tried to turn on two defenders at the hour mark. Though his Brazilian teammate was well-defended, the ball took a quirky deflection into space and Gallardo was the quickest of the bunch, zipping forward to dink a savvy finish into the left side of the net to run the score to 3-1."
MLSNet, Chris Snear: "United put the game out of reach on one of the more simple goals Emilio he has scored all year to make the score 4-1 in the 69th minute. Gallardo played a ball wide right to Fred, who was close to an offside position on the right flank. The speedy Brazilian raced in to the penalty area and pushed the ball around a committed Cronin, to Emilio and the wide open goal."
The Offside: D.C. United, Jon: "Where to begin? Oh, I know. Greater than the win, or the crowd, or beating Becks. Ben Olsen, heart and soul of DC United, stepped back on the pitch for the time this season. Did he look great? No. Did it matter? Not at all."
Sideline Views, Andrea Canales: "DC an emphatic win at home. It might have been different if the call had been made for the elbow against Gallardo, but the home team took care of business."
DCUMD, Shatz: "Recently, United has been beating lesser opponents while giving up too many goalscoring opportunities. But in this match, against inarguably one of the most talented offensive teams in the league, DC dominated possession, dominated the scoreline, and performed admirably well on defense...Marcelo Gallardo was largely uninvolved for most of the first half, at least at times when he wasn't smacking Donovan in the nose."
BLCKDGRD, BDR: "Any questions on whether Marcelo Gallardo was the best player on the field? Yes, he gacked a couple, but his diagonals into space are brilliant. Moreno gets him, Emilio gets him, Martinez especially gets him, Namoff gets him, Quaranta gets him. It's going to be beautiful...Maybe the team is rounding - I'm still skeptical - but they needed nine of nine points out of this homestand before July's diversions, and they got nine points out of the homestand. And it feels to me like the team now has a personality it didn't for the first months. I'm still skeptical, but I'm no longer pessimistic."
Fighting Talker, Aaron Stollar: "Wells did absolutely everything needed to do today and I will give him full credit for it. You can’t fault him for the goal and he came up with a few spectacular saves today especially the tip while backing up from Landon’s shot."
Poplar Point Perspective, JCM: "DC United are back."

The Good

  1. Ben Olsen: You can say, and we have said, all that you want about this team missing Ben Olsen, but that forgets how much we fans missed him. C'mon, you were playing the theme to The Natural when he retook the field in your head, right? Seeing him with the armband on, on the field, the great signs in the crowd "14 - Heart of a Lion" Go ahead, you got choked up. It's okay. We all did. For more on that, before it happened, I commend Dave Lifton's comparison to Mr. Reyna, and a shot at the Red Bull fans who are disgraceful. Read it.
  2. The Imperial Stormtroopers of the Evil Empire Invade the Galaxy: I'll admit, when Tom Soehn and Marcello Gallardo were wondering about heat and humidity, part of me was worried that this was a team making excuses in advance for a lackluster effort. I was wrong. Tom Soehn ordered, cajoled, and dictated that his team run at the LA Defense, who wilted. It was good coaching, good tactics, and once weaknesses were found Tom Soehn got the team to exploit them for all they were worth. To that end, we should note that Gallardo, Burch, Fred, Tino, Emilio, and Moreno all had excellent games in taking on and executing a forceful attack, and moving in for the kill when LA was overcome by the elements.
  3. LCDR Zach Wells: Some really good saves, some confidence building moves, and the one time he was beat it was thanks to three United defenders missing the mark. If you were waiting for a game where Zach Wells wasn't just adequate, but actually helped the team to win, this is the game, and accordingly we promote him to Lieutenant Commander (O-4).
  4. Marc Burch: This was the first time I've seen him come in at left back and really do well. Part of that is the LA Defense, and the defensive contribution they got from their midfield on the right side. But part of it was Marc actually knowing how to create space and not let his left foot get shut down.
  5. McTavish - Martinez: Special commendations to these gentlemen, who took their marking responsibilities seriously. Donovan was limited severely in his action, and Devon made some good, clinical plays to shore up what has been a ridiculously leaky central defense. Martinez vs. Beckham was wonderful. David would find space, but Martinez would close him down quickly rather then back off, and while he may have made the future Martinez generations pay for his defending, I was heartened to see it.
  6. Landon Donovan: His team quit, but he never did. Credit where it is due.

The Bad

  1. Ben Olsen: I'm a heartless bastard, but really, let's admit this - Ben Olsen is not match fit. I know, it doesn't matter, but I want to preempt any temptation that you might have in the wake of Tino going out early to say "Well, good thing we got Ben back just in time." He's not ready. He may not ever be fully fit this season. That's okay. What he did was enough, just don't put more on him than he needs to deal with right now.
  2. F-R-E-*: Until Fre* manages to finish a chance, I am now refusing to finish typing his name. On that final goal, tell me you weren't relieved to see him pass up the shot to Emilio for the goal.
  3. Gallardo's Gesticulations: We'll talk more about this, but I'm not entirely going to excuse the Gallardo bloodying of Landon's nose as purely accidental. Marcello felt remorse for his actions, and he should have. What's more, he imperiled the team with the risk of playing down a man.

Officiating Watch

Jair Marrufo got one big call right (the penalty awarded on the tackle of Quaranta in the fifth minute) but got far more wrong. He let tough fouls go all day. Beckham fouled Moreno. Moreno fouled Beckham. Too many fouls were allowed to play on. And yes, Gallardo deserved an ejection (and let's not say he's clear of things yet, since I wouldn't be totally surprised to hear of a league review). For two straight games, we've had officials whose lackadaisical approach to the Laws of the Game do not bias the match to one side or another, but rather endanger and detract from both sides.

The ARs, other than not helping out on the deserved red to Gallardo, seemed right on for the most part. Landon was off-side, if only just, on the one goal that was called back.

Likert Scale Grade: 2 -Below Average

Man of the Match

Devon McTavish. I know we had a brace from Emilio, but I want to reward what was one of the better defensive efforts this team has put forth against a very talented attacking side. Merit awards to Gallardo, Soehn, Emilio, Burch, Wells, and Martinez. Notes of Censure to Fre* and Perralta. Special Merit Award of Perpetual Honor and Gumption to Ben Olsen.

Final Thoughts

I've been thinking about this team all wrong. I've been expecting them to turn into "The Best Team in MLS" They're not going to do that. The defense, which should on paper be an upgrade, seems instead to have an upper limit of "acceptable" at the end of the season. The offense is finally turning into something fun to watch. Which leads me to what I should have been expecting from this team. They're not the best team in MLS, but they are "The Most Entertaining Team in MLS" The goals and attack are fun to watch, and the defense will have you on edge and could collapse like a building imploding at any moment.

And frankly, that's not a bad thing. I'll take fun to watch over crappy AND boring. This team won't be humming along as a surgical tool ever this season. And that's okay. Accept the gifts we are given, and let's have fun. United will no doubt lose more games this season, and may look damn foolish during some of them, but that's okay. Enjoy the ride.

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At 30 June, 2008 11:27, Blogger Bob said...

As many times as ABC replayed Gallardo chopping Donovan in the grillz, if the replay had gone back about 5 seconds further, you would see Donovan kick Gallardo directly in the side of the knee. Ouch. I think if Gallardo had gone down there, Donovan would have gotten the red.

I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'...

At 30 June, 2008 11:45, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hell, if we wanted to make a history of officiating in DC-LA games, I'll easily say that the Gallardo non-red still doesn't equal all of Ruiz's dives and elbows, Danny Pena's hacks, Alejandro "Ruiz-Lite" Moreno, and Cobi's chop-block on Benny in the 2000 opener.

At 30 June, 2008 11:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But in fairness, there was the "Down Goes Fraser" moment up in Foxboro.

Hey, that's twice I got to make that reference in less than 24 hours....

At 30 June, 2008 12:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow , they played so well after Quaranta left the game , what a phoney , the guy has no clue.............

At 30 June, 2008 12:33, Blogger tucksider said...

Who started this "Iron Triangle" nonsense? Said triangle consists of:
1) a semi-notorious flopper
2) an injury-prone forward noted for his cleverness, finesse, and ability to score on PKs
3) a midfielder whose nickname is "the doll"

I'm crazy about these guys, but one thing they are not is a rough crew of hard dudes. That's just ridiculous.

Great debriefing, though, and unfortunately I agree that Gallardo The Enforcer was fortunate not to be ejected.

At 30 June, 2008 13:18, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought Fred had a really good game overall -- I thought his energy was great, his movement off the ball was great, his passing was great . . .but yes, his finishing was bad. He's in dire need of a goal, just to get the monkey off his back.

At 30 June, 2008 18:08, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was a lot of elation after that win. Which was fun and that LA were held to a goal was great. But it was disproportionate, I think. Maybe it was because if any of you are like me (you're better off if you're not), you told everyone you know and their brother that the game was on ABC on noon and that some, if not many, were going to watch. And you were vaguely afraid that Beckham and Donovan were going to pull some NT stuff and make United look like clowns and that clearly didn't happen. But why else?
Here's my macro look. Over this streak, a number of players have stepped forward, United started by getting a draw against NE away and then beating a number of other good teams (and some crappy ones), Emilio started scoring again and to top it all off, Benny came back and United is at .500. All of which is good. However, to do well in the league, the team is going to have really keep it up for a really long time. We're talking at least 3 mega-Bennys of grit and determination. Its also going to take fortune and plenty of it. And even if they somehow manage to win the Supporter's Shield and the MLS Cup and every other tournament they play in for the rest of the year, they aren't going to be the team we thought they were. And every weakness that we see is going to be magnified by the fact that we watched them get humiliated over and over at the beginning of the season. BUT!, the team is lots of fun to watch and every time they take the pitch, I think it is fair for us to believe that a win is possible. And that's more than I expected 8 games ago.

At 30 June, 2008 21:34, Blogger Martin Shatzer said...

Anonymous 12:15 - Unless I'm missing some poor attempt at sarcasm... They played well BEFORE Quaranta left the game also. DC got much more out of the right wing with Quaranta there than with Fred.

D- I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who has been disappointed with Fre* lately. Not only were we relieved to see him pass to Emilio instead of shoot for the 4th goal, I also think that Emilio would have earned a hat trick had Fred passed to him instead of shooting once earlier in the second half.

At 01 July, 2008 07:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Most Entertaining" also tends to "most eliminated in the playoffs", because the playoffs tend to degenerate into a slow, boring defensive grind. If the offensive polygon can break down bunker D's, sure. I'm just not sold on the capability of the D to shut down anyone. How many shutouts has the D managed again this year...?

At 01 July, 2008 08:29, Blogger Landru said...

I must respectfully dissent in Mister Wells' promotion. Seems unduly hasty to me. I still saw a guy crazyglued to the line, severely lacking the athletic skills to back up such a strategy. Wells really doesn't get that he's defending the goal, not the goal line. Yes, the defense also missed on that goal, but Wells should've been off his line a full second before it occurred to him to move his indecisive arse. Competent goalkeeping can cover a lot of defensive sins, and Wells is utterly, staggeringly incompetent. To the extent that this indictment damns him for not being Troy Perkins or even Nick Rimando, that's a shame (not really, but I'll concede the argument that much), but he remains a starting keeper without a clean sheet. That's beyond pathetic, especially given that the last two games were the Quakes and a Gals team that surrendered very shortly after it walked onto the pitch.

I must also most vocally dissent in the matter of Gallardo. Donovan was riding Gallardo's back, hands on his shoulders. Gallardo was flailing, both for balance and because flailing is something you do when a notorious piece o' crap like Donovan is trying to bring you down by illegal means (plus, what Bob said). I do not feel the tiniest bit bad about Landycakes' bloody nose, and any league review penalty that doesn't slap Donovan equally would be further very hard evidence of the league's LAG-love.

I'm not disrespecting the simple truth that Donovan was the only Gal who didn't curl up and quit, and that he took this loss with every bit of the grace and dignity he didn't display that day. But he doesn't get to pretend to be a victim on that play. No way.

At 01 July, 2008 08:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First - I am NOT defending Jair Marrufo (probably never will). However, when Emilio scored his first goal, Gallardo was having a word with Jair about the persistent knee jobs he was getting while DCU celebrated (I pointed out the chat to a soccer neophyte friend about the benefits of lobbying ref's). A few minutes later, Landon proved Gallardo's point with a nasty chop on Gallardo's right knee right in front of two ref's (4th official was starring at the play). Gallardo's hands went up in frustration more than a nast elbow to the Balding One's noggin'. Bob called it right in the first post - the non-red card is a non-issue raised by Gullit and a lot of commentators took the bait.

Second - Fred's play off-the-ball should be given a helluvah lot more credit than these posts offer. Fred's darting runs towards space and into space pull apart defenses thus giving opportunities to others - a contribution that will likely never be captured in a statistic like a "Goal". I don't think any other player on the team brings that to the table. Sure it's frustrating to see anyone blow a sitter in front of one of the worst keeper's in the league, but if we're keeping score of missed opportunities, then Emilio's goal tally would likely be a lot lower.

At 01 July, 2008 09:15, Anonymous Anonymous said...

finally someone notices a finer point of the game from the right side with Fred,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,a point that Quaranta does not provide,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,it's called creativity , yes Fred really knows how to create space and all Quaranta does is get out of the way,,,,,,,,,,,there is a world of difference between the two players,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

At 01 July, 2008 09:37, Blogger JCM said...

Who started this "Iron Triangle" nonsense? Said triangle consists of:
1) a semi-notorious flopper
2) an injury-prone forward noted for his cleverness, finesse, and ability to score on PKs
3) a midfielder whose nickname is "the doll"

And who would the semi-notorious flopper be? Surely not Emilio. I can figure out who you mean with the other two and honestly can't understand your problem. It's a nickname. I don't think Etcheverry, Moreno, and Diaz Arce were actually magicians, but the Magic Triangle was a cool nickname. Ease up, Tucksider. It's all in fun.

At 01 July, 2008 11:30, Blogger tucksider said...

I mean, I'm not gonna lose any sleep over it. I just think someone who gets paid to write could come up with a more vivid description for these guys.

But "semi-notorious flopper" was going too far. I do think Emilio goes down too easily, especially when he's struggling, and opponents and referees know it. But he's not as soft as the other two. Maybe he can be the "Iron Monolith" or something.


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